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Commons Chamber

Volume 499: debated on Tuesday 22 April 1952

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 22nd April, 1952

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Local Government

Sheffield Aerodrome Project


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will reconsider his decision regarding the proposed aerodrome at Sheffield and allow the immediate commencement of this project, which will greatly benefit the social and economic life of Sheffield.

The proposed aerodrome on the Redmires site was the subject of a local inquiry. As I informed my hon. Friend, I was unable to agree to its proceeding at this time. It is true that there were substantial objections raised, from the point of view of the amenities of a hospital nearby; but I must say frankly that what weighed with me most in reaching this decision was the undesirability, in my view, of diverting national resources at this moment which are so much needed for constructional work in both the armament, housing and export fields.

May I ask my right hon. Friend two questions arising out of that? First, does that mean that if the supplies position gets better, it will be possible to review this project earlier than three years; and, secondly, can we take it that his mind is not closed to the use of the Redmires site as an aerodrome at a later date?

Cornish Coast-Line (Amenities)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will require the planning authority for Cornwall in its development plan to preserve from farming and other operations a strip of land at least 50 yards wide from the edge of the cliff where no use is now made of such land, with the object of preserving the unique flora in many places and the amenities and atmosphere of the proposed coast-line path around the county.

I must await the submission of the development plan, when I shall be able to consider, in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Commission, whether it provides sufficiently for the preservation of the flora, and the safeguarding of the amenities of the coastline.

Private Street Works


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government on what principles he estimates the relative needs of urban as compared with rural local authorities for capital expenditure on the making up of private streets; and how much was allocated last year for the urban authorities of Lancashire.

Only the most urgent private street works can be authorised under present circumstances, and each case is examined on its merits, irrespective of whether the area is urban or rural. About £290,000 worth of private street works were allowed in the urban areas of Lancashire last year.

Is the Minister satisfied that too much work is not being done in urban areas at the expense of rural areas where the need is very great?


Se Regional Production Board


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he has yet appointed the Chairman of the South Eastern Regional Housing Production Board; what his name and qualifications are; and how many meetings of the Board have been held since 1st November, 1951.

Yes, Sir. Mr. Harold H. Bagnall, until recently a director of Lever Brothers and Unilever, Limited, has kindly consented to serve as Chairman. The first meeting of the Board will be held shortly.

May I ask the Minister to reply to the last part of my Question as to the frequency of meetings?

The Board has only just been fully constituted, and therefore it is only just about having its first meeting.


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government why Lieut.-Colonel Colin Blanchard, O.B.E., whose acceptance of an invitation to join the South Eastern Regional Housing Board was acknowledged by one of his officials on 19th February, has heard nothing further to date.

Colonel Blanchard should now have received a summons to attend the first meeting of the Board.



asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether in view of the additional demands placed upon Coventry for the housing of workers engaged in defence and export work, he will take steps to provide materials and labour for additional accommodation outside the normal housing programme.

I am aware of the special difficulties in Coventry and am doing all I can to help the city council to overcome them. Building labour cannot, however, be directed there.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is not Government policy that in an area which is scheduled for work of this nature the Government are prepared to allocate to the local authority houses additional to the normal programme and that if this involves giving the work to a contractor bringing in labour from outside the area, the Government are prepared to help financially in respect of that labour?

Requisitioned Properties (Working Party)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a statement about the composition and purpose of the proposed working party to consider the future of property requisitioned by local authorities.

The working party comprises representatives of the associations of local authorities, the London County Council and my Ministry. Its terms of reference are to review the arrangements for emergency accommodation which have been continued in England and Wales since the end of the war, and to report on the measures necessary for relieving the central Government from financial responsibility for the housing of families in requisitioned premises at an early date.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance not to put financial or other pressure on local authorities compelling them either to increase rents paid by the occupants of requisitioned property or to hand this requisitioned property back to private landlords, since both would have the most serious consequences?

I have arranged for this matter to be inquired into as a result of most friendly discussions with the local authorities and the London County Council, and it would be better to await their report.

Will the Minister give an assurance that the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) will not be a member of that working party?


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether his attention has been drawn to the letter from the Town Clerk of Newcastle-under-Lyme to the secretary of his Department indicating that Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is opposed to the withdrawal of requisitioning powers for housing purposes under present circumstances; what reply he intends to make; and whether he will now reconsider his policy in this respect.

I have received the Town Clerk's letter. It relates to a warning I gave local authorities that wartime arrangements still in force must gradually be brought to an end. The associations of local authorities have all agreed to join the working party set up to advise me on ways and means. I cannot say more until the working party has reported.

New Flats (Air-Raid Shelters)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government to what extent it is the policy of his Department to encourage local authorities in London and other urban areas to include the provision of air-raid shelters in designing new blocks of flats.

I should like to encourage local authorities in vulnerable areas to provide air-raid shelters in new blocks of flats, so far as is possible without the use of scarce materials which are needed more urgently for other purposes.

While it is obvious that this proposal will represent a considerable saving in the provision of air-raid shelters, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Home Office are turning down schemes submitted for their approval for new blocks of flats in Lambeth and other vulnerable areas?

Lettings (Premiums)


asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that the law against the charging of premiums for lettings of houses and flats is being evaded by the charging of excessive sums for fittings and furniture, examples of which have been sent to him; and whether he will introduce legislation to make this practice illegal.

I have not had many representations on this practice. It is already illegal under Section 3 of the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949, and no further legislation is required.

Especially in view of the fact that this practice is illegal, which is not generally known, will the Minister take steps to make it more widely known and encourage people to give information and institute prosecutions in cases where this sort of thing happens? Is he aware that only this morning I received a case where a flat has a statutory rent of £84 a year, but the owner is asking actually £1,250 for the furniture and fittings, which is obviously a gross over-estimate of the value of these things? Is it not important that some special pressure should be put on to secure prosecutions in such cases?

The hon. Gentleman has referred to excessive sums, but without the knowledge of a particular case no one can say what is excessive. As to the general practice my answer is correct, but I am grateful to him for ventilating this matter. Perhaps his Question and my answer will assist someone in the purpose he has in mind.

Is not the real answer to this that people should deal with reputable firms who do not engage in this sort of practice?

Is the Minister aware that there is a real grievance to be redressed in this matter? Is he not also aware that large amounts of rent are demanded in advance, which amount to premiums, and will he take steps to stop that? Is he further aware that there are certain agents who are battening on the needs of people requiring flats to exact fees from them but not finding the flats?

The real trouble is the shortage of accommodation, and I am looking to the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends to assist me in this work.

If those responsible for instituting prosecutions, if allegations are made, fail to act, does the Minister take any action?

I have no reason to suppose that they fail to act. As I said in the first sentence of my original answer, I have not had many representations on the practice but it rests with the local authorities. If there are any difficulties, I am sure they will do their duty.

Ministry Of Works

Brick Production

14 and 15.

asked the Minister of Works (1) the percentage increase in brick production for the first three months of 1952 compared with the same period in 1951;

(2) what success has attended his efforts to expand brick production; and to what extent it met the full needs of re-armament and the housing programme.

Brick production in the first three months of this year increased by 13 per cent. compared with the same period of 1951 and has met the needs of the building programme.

Is it not obvious to the Minister that very much more will have to be done if the many assurances given by the party opposite about house building are to be realised in the near future, and is he hopeful that during the next six months there will be an even larger increase than during the first six months?

I can only say that if production goes up 13 per cent. more than last year we shall get 800 million more bricks this year, which I think will be enough.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that much of this increase is due to the provisions which his predecessors made both in relation to the physical expansion of the industry and the provision of labour?

I do not want to assess responsibility, but I think much of it is due to the confidence in the industry that the bricks will be wanted.

Official Car Service


asked the Minister of Works why it is proposed to increase the expenditure on the provision of official cars.

The estimated increase for 1952–53 of £9,000 in the provision for the Official Car Services in sub-section D3 of the Class IX, Vote I, is due to the rise in prices of vehicle spares and repairs.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not remember the line shot in this House by the Prime Minister about the economies in this service, and if those were seriously intended, how is it they have not more that contracted the increase in costs, and why has it been necessary to appoint a new subsection leader, which suggests that more drivers are being employed?

If the hon. Member will wait a few months he will see that economies are going to be made.

Would the Minister say what that means? Does it mean there is going to be a substantial reduction in expenditure because there is to be a substantial reduction in the use of official cars, and will he give us some indication of what the Government's intentions are in this matter?

Yes, Sir, it does mean that. Including the number of drivers now under notice, 68 have been declared redundant.

We want a little more elucidation on this. Will the Minister say whether this means that fewer cars will be at the disposal of Ministers, and who are the Ministers who are going to do without cars and will have to walk?

Since last October, 97 cars have been given up, and Ministers are using cars much less than they did under the previous Government.

In view of the substantial reduction, for which naturally we give the Government credit, how does the right hon. Gentleman account for an increase of £9,000 in the expenditure?

The only reply to that is that the cost of running, petrol and spares is up, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to wait and he will then see how the Estimates work out.

In view of the discrepancies in the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter at the earliest possible moment.

National Art Collection (Public Offices)


asked the Minister of Works whether he will form a national collection of works of art for display in public offices at home and in Government buildings overseas.

Yes, Sir. In recent years there has been a large increase in the number of buildings overseas where British prestige has to be maintained. My Ministry has made the best of very slender resources, but these are quite insufficient to do justice to British art in such buildings as Embassies, Consulates, High Commissioners' houses and Governors' residences.

I have, therefore, decided to form a collection of pictures and decorative objects to be placed in Government buildings here and abroad. I am inviting both gifts and loans in kind, and cash subscriptions for the purchase of works by dead and living artists. The pictures on loan will be carefully looked after and, in the unlikely event of damage, this will be made good.

This collection has made a good start. I should like especially to mention the loan of pictures made by my noble Friend Lord Wharton, and a loan of 112 pictures and drawings made by Sir Bruce Ingram. I would be grateful for any help which hon. Members can give to make this venture a success.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this announcement will give great pleasure to many of those who have long felt that our works of art were inadequately shown in our Embassies, and will he convey our gratitude to the generous donors?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many galleries large numbers of pictures are stored away in cellars and that the galleries would be only too pleased for them to be used?

I think there is a general idea that far more pictures are stored away than is actually the case. I have made a very careful survey of the galleries and, within the limits of their obligations to donors and the limits of their statutes, they have lent very generously.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider displaying in this way those works of art which the public are at present prevented from seeing by the Government's stupid decision to close down part of the Tate Gallery?

Will by right hon. Friend assure the House that this collection will not include the type of picture which even experts cannot tell if it is hung upside down or not?

When the right hon. Gentleman is considering the state of Government buildings abroad, will he devote a little attention to the state of the British Embassy in Moscow which is in an unbelievably shabby and dilapidated condition?

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how much this will cost during the present financial year?

Palace Of Westminster

House Of Commons (Ventilation)


asked the Minister of Works what instructions he has issued to his maintenance staff in the House of Commons about preventing attempts by hon. Members or others to open windows on the floor below the new Chamber.

Windows in basement and ground floor offices are kept locked. When a Member asks for a window to be opened, the Control Engineer advises him that if the window is opened the air conditioning will not work efficiently but, if the Member still wishes to have the window opened, this is done.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this complaint would not arise if the air conditioning system did not make the atmosphere almost intolerable? Is it not almost worse than Socialism that a Minister is not allowed to open the window in his own room without first asking permission?

I will look into the complaints about the quality of the air, but I think it would be worse if we threw the air conditioning system out of gear by opening the windows.

Victoria Tower Repairs


asked the Minister of Works for how long the Victoria Tower has been under repair; how much these repairs have cost to date; when the work is expected to be finished; how much the total cost will be; and what steps he is taking to get the work completed as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

Repairs to the stonework of the Victoria Tower started in 1937 and have cost about £300,000 to date. The work should be finished by the end of 1954 at a total estimated cost of £600,000. Within the limits imposed by finance and the supply of stone and stone-masons, the work is being carried out with reasonable speed. The work is done by contract on the basis of competitive tenders.

As the work started in 1937 and is not expected to be completed until 1954, is the Minister satisfied that time is being used economically and that we are getting the best value for the taxpayers' money?

Undoubtedly we have lost money because of the war, as the scaffolding had to be removed and put up again. We cannot go faster owing to the limit on the number of craftsmen.

Westminster Hall (Fire Precautions)


asked the Minister of Works whether he is aware that there is no means of escape from fire in the secretaries' room at the south end of Westminster Hall; and what action he proposes to take.

Yes, Sir. Arrangements are being made to provide a means of escape from this room.

While I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him if he can say how many other chambers in the Palace of Westminster are in a similar condition?

Secretarial Accommodation


asked the Minister of Works whether he will provide hon. Members, whose secretaries are accommodated in Westminster Hall, with convenient and adequate facilities for the dictation and signature of correspondence.

All rooms in the Palace of Westminster are in use. When the Chamber of the House was rebuilt 19 rooms were provided on the lower ground floor for hon. Members to deal with their correspondence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some 60 secretaries are working in Westminster Hall and that there is room for only four hon. Members at a time to deal with letters? Will he made a really determined effort to improve the deplorable conditions under which hon. Members have to work, conditions which would not be tolerated in a Government Department or in industry?

We are governed by the amount of space available. I have noticed that many hon. Members seem to prefer to do their correspondence in the Lobby and in other places, and I have had no complaint except that from the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is always room for twice as many people in the basement as are ever engaged with the secretaries?


Agriculture (Foreign Workers)

23 and 24.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) if he has considered using Italian labour on farms in this country;

(2) if he has considered using German labour on farms in this country.

If the need for additional farm labour increases and cannot be met from sources in this country, I shall be glad, in consultation with my right hon. Friends, to discuss with both sides of the industry any proposals that may be made for recruitment of farm workers from abroad.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend see if in the meantime he could use Italian miners who have come over here and have been unable to get suitable employment in the mines?

As regards those who have been recruited for the mines, understand that the National Coal Board is still doing all it can to see if it can find them the employment for which they came. If the Italians are unable to find that employment, it does not follow that they would be suitable for or ready to accept work on farms.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that there are large numbers of unemployed in the West Riding of Yorkshire and in Lancashire while at the same time foreigners are engaged in the districts where those people are unemployed?

That is a different matter, but I will certainly take it into account.

Unemployment (Textile Industries And Docks)


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that on 17th March there was an increase of 39,494 registered unemployed over the figure on 11th February; that 432,974 workers were registered as unemployed on 17th March; and what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to deal with this grave situation.

Yes, Sir. The rise in unemployment between February and March was more than accounted for by increased unemployment in the textile industries: outside these industries unemployment fell by 7,000. The recession in the textile industries is world-wide in scope, and recovery from it depends on how quickly there is a general revival of demand for their products. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the debate on 7th April announced measures which the Government are taking to help the industries in the meantime.

While I appreciate that, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained, the textile industry makes up a large proportion, is he aware that if he looks at Question No. 27 he will see that there is an increase of 10,000 in the number of dockers unemployed and, therefore, the figure is not entirely made up of textile workers? What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman propose to do about the very grave problem of general unemployment in the country?

I had, of course, observed the next Question, which I will answer when it is asked. However, I would draw attention to the fact that I was not seeking to say that in no industry at all had there been in the month any rise in unemployment; I was only pointing out that if we take the total apart from the textile trade there has been a decrease in the total and not a rise. I appreciate that that does not mean a completely level position over all industry.


asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that on 4th April there were 14,793 registered unemployed dock workers, as compared with 4,841 a year ago; and what action he proposes to take to deal with this grave situation.

These figures relate to registered dock workers who were not required for work on a particular day, but are entitled to payments under the Dock Labour Scheme. It is the responsibility of the National Dock Labour Board to adjust the numbers of registered workers to normal requirements, but there is bound to be a substantial surplus from time to time when the volume of work falls below the normal.

On a point of order. May I have your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the latter part of the Question is in order? It is addressed to the Minister of Labour, but the employment of dock labour is exclusively within the province of the Dock Labour Board and has, therefore, nothing to do with the Minister of Labour?

Is the Minister aware that for the first time in six years there has been an increase of 10,000 in the number of unemployed in the dock industry in one year, and that this is very serious for London and the ports of the country generally? Will he consider doing something to give the dock workers alternative employment when they cannot get suitable work at the docks?

The first thing I would point out is that the comparison made between 4,800 on 4th April last year and 14,700 on 4th April this year is simply taking one year at a particular date with another year. If one took the figures for the preceding years, it would be found that in 1950 the number was 10,500 odd; in 1949, 9,500; and in 1948, 12,100. One must not, therefore, draw too much of an inference from a particular comparison.

Nevertheless, there has been an increase, but I would draw the hon. Member's attention to this: That in their ordinary work, the National Dock Labour Board see to it that these men are paid for the turns they attend and that in addition there is, of course, a minimum wage which they have to get. It so happens that they have to adjust the register. They do so on a six-monthly basis and today is the day on which they begin their review, which means, therefore, that they will be back on a normal basis.

Is the Minister aware that unemployment today is rising? It is not a question of its being seasonal, but is a direct consequence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's policy of £600 million import cuts, most of which have not yet been felt in the docks industry. There is going to be some great trouble here. Does it not rather make a farce of the Ports Efficiency Committee, which has been established to see whether it can get a quicker turn-round of shipping, when dockers are being sacked by the thousand?

It would be dangerous to draw an inference from these figures about the Ports Efficiency Committee. If the cuts in imports have that effect, at a later stage one will have to do one's best to deal with it.

Shops And Offices (Factories Acts)


asked the Minister of Labour if he will introduce amending legislation to extend the provisions of the Factories Acts to shops, warehouses and offices.

No, Sir. Many of the provisions of the Factories Acts would be inapplicable to shops and offices. The needs of such premises in regard to health, welfare and safety requirements are more appropriately dealt with in separate legislation.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that between 2 and 3 million persons are working in the types of premises referred to in the Question and that in all these premises—warehouses, shops and offices—are installed numerous power driven machines—slicers, mincers, crushers, electrical appliances, lifts and lifting tackle of all kinds—and that where accidents occur the Ministry have no record of them because there is no statutory right which permits them to record the accidents?

The Question which I was asked dealt with the appropriateness of applying the Factories Acts to these premises. The matter, as the hon. Gentleman is, no doubt, aware was carefully considered by the Gowers Committee, which reported to other Ministries. The Report which they made is being considered by those Ministers, and on an official level, but it is by no means the case that either the Committee or any other body has suggested the mere application of the Factories Acts to those premises.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that before extending the provisions of the Factories Acts, we ought to bring up the establishment of the factory inspectors so that they can give proper supervision in the areas already covered?

Armed Forces (Civilians)


asked the Minister of Labour how many people are engaged in the production of armaments and in the feeding, clothing and housing of the armed forces.

It is not possible to give information in the precise form in which the hon. Member asks for it, but it has been estimated that there are over a million civilians employed by or on behalf of the armed forces.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it was hoped that by this time he would have had quite a large transference of people into the re-armament industries, and how does he think that those hopes are being realised by the transference we have had to date?

I do not think I can answer that query on this Question, but I shall be glad to deal with it if it is on the Paper.


Art Teachers (Pay)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the fact that revised salary scales for all teachers in central art institutions in Scotland have not yet been fixed, he will inquire into the ways by which salary scales for such teachers are fixed, with a view to expediting settlements by the adoption of procedures customary in the negotiation of salary scales of other teachers.

While the salaries paid in central institutions are subject to my approval for the purposes of the Central Institution (Scotland) Grant Regulations, the fixing of these salaries is the responsibility of the governing bodies of the different institutions. The normal practice is for negotiations on salary changes to take place between the governing body and the staff of each central institution. Any change in such procedure would be a matter for agreement between the two sides.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction amongst the staff of the Edinburgh College of Art about the delay in meeting their claims for increases in salaries?

The Department have no knowledge of any dissatisfaction at the method of negotiating these claims. I should be very glad to consider any suggestions which may be made.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many general practitioners in Scotland are now receiving payment from the National Health Service; and what were the corresponding numbers in each year since the inception of the Service.

The number of principals providing general medical services in Scotland under the National Health Service was 2,400 at 1st January, 1952; 2,402 at 1st January, 1951; 2,421 at 1st January, 1950, and 2,341 at 1st January, 1949.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the sum of money paid in the financial years 1949–50, 1950–51, 1951–52, under the National Health Service to general practitioners in Scotland.

The amount paid to doctors in the financial year 1949–50 for the provision of general and maternity medical services and the supply and dispensing of medicines was £5,146,353; the corresponding figure for 1950–51 was £5,220,544, and for 1951–52, £5,211,915.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the average cost of a National Health Service prescription in each of the five years from 1948 to 1952.

The approximate average cost per prescription in Scotland was 3s. 6d. in the second half of 1948; in 1949 it was 4s. 1d., in 1950 4s. 4½d., and in 1951 4s. 7d. Figures for 1952 are not yet available.

Can the Minister give any good reason why the implications of these figures should not be given every facility for full discussion under the National Health Bill now before the House?

That is rather a different point and perhaps is for those in charge of the National Health Bill.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the total area of deer forest land in Scotland; the area of land in Scotland grazed by deer and also by cattle and sheep; how many deer forests there are; the estimated deer population of each forest for each year since 1931; and the estimated total deer population today.

The Agricultural Returns of 4th June 1951, show that there are 196 deer forests in Scotland extending to some 3,100,000 acres. Of this total slightly over 1,000,000 acres are returned as being grazed by cattle and sheep. I regret that information as to the estimated population of each forest for each year since 1931 is not available. The total deer population today probably exceeds 100,000, but here again no reliable information is available.

Is the Minister aware that legislation is pending relating to deer? Can he say how many individuals own these vast territories, and is it not a fact that during their years of ownership they have done very little to solve the problems relating to deer?

I think the numbers of owners would approximate to 196, that being the number of forests.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to make it more profitable and practicable for owners of deer forests to agist cattle during the summer months?


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland his estimate of the extent and value of the damage to crops caused by deer in Scotland during each of the last 20 years; in which districts this damage occurred; and what steps he proposes to take to control the herds which cause this damage and to organise them in national parks for their own protection and the protection of crops.

There is no statutory or other obligation on deer forest owners or agriculturists to report damage by deer, and I have no statistical data which would enable me to give any estimate of the extent and value of such damage or to say in which districts it may have occurred.

Agricultural executive committees have power in certain circumstances under the Agriculture (Scotland) Act, 1948, to secure the destruction of deer causing or likely to cause damage to agricultural production.

The hon. and learned Member's suggestion that deer should be confined to national parks raises wide administrative issues which cannot well be dealt with by way of question and answer.

Is it not clear, in view of the failure of the existing owners of these deer forests to discharge their ordinary duties to the deer, that it is time the deer were protected in national parks?

I can only say that to contain deer would involve a great deal of fencing of a very high and expensive character.


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the annual wastage and loss of life among the deer of Scotland; the causes of this wastage; and how much of it is due to starvation, disease, wounding, sport and poaching, respectively.

Can the right hon. Gentleman suggest any other way of protecting these deer than that of protecting them in national parks?

I must say that it is not a question I have considered up to date, but it would be an expensive project.

Would my right hon. Friend consider introducing a closed season for deer when the Bill from the other place reaches this House, or before?

I am very anxious to do all I can in that respect, but there are difficulties.

In view of the fact that neither the Secretary of State for Scotland, nor any one else, seems to know anything about what is happening to deer in deer forests except by poachers, what right have they to introduce a Bill in this House, based on no information or evidence whatever, in order to suppress the poacher, who, if anyone has it, has a certain natural right to do something about deer?

Will my right hon. Friend say how this Government, or any other Government, could keep deer within a national park?

In view of his reply regarding damage caused, that there was no statistical record, is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in many areas there is no feeding of deer in the winter? Could he influence some of his hon. Friends to help the deer over the hard period and thus preserve good arable land?

Hill Farming Comprehensive Schemes


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland the number of holdings under each of the comprehensive schemes for improvement formally approved under the Hill Farming Act.

I presume that the Question refers to the crofting township schemes in the county of Ross and Cromarty, which were the subject of a Question yesterday. The numbers of holdings in each of the three townships in Ross and Cromarty, for which schemes have been formally approved, are 28, 20 and 10.

Could my right hon. Friend say what part the proprietors of these townships, which are being carried out on a comprehensive basis, are playing in these schemes and how many of these holdings belong to the Department of Agriculture?

Right Of Way Dispute, Armadale


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the United Fireclay Products, Ltd., 141, West George Street, Glasgow, have cut off supplies of water to the tenants of Glenlark Cottages, Armadale, West Lothian, in consequence of a dispute over a right of way in which the tenants are not legally involved; and if he will take immediate steps to ensure that the water services are restored pending a settlement of the dispute.

Under new arrangements for supply made yesterday, the service of water to the cottages has now been restored.

Housing, Scotland

Scandinavian Timber Houses


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement regarding the scheme for importing Scandinavian timber houses.

The lowest of the quotations which I have received from both foreign and home manufacturers is from the Weir Housing Corporation of Coat-bridge, Scotland. I have, therefore, arranged that this firm will undertake a programme, based on orders from local authorities, for the manufacture and erection of up to 3,000 timber houses in 1952 and 1953. This is the maximum number for which timber can be provided in present circumstances and I have been obliged to scale down the total demands of local authorities accordingly. Nevertheless, these houses should ease the demand for bricks which are scarce.

I am sending a circular to local authorities tonight giving them details of the scheme and am writing to selected authorities offering them allocations under the programme.

While thanking the Minister for his second and wiser thoughts on this problem, may I ask whether he is aware that in the building industry there is great dissatisfaction at the loose way the quantities were prepared to be sent out for tender and, secondly, at the time limit that was placed on contractors for doing their estimating—15 days, which included Christmas and New Year holidays? Generally, the tenders were more in the nature of guess work than honest tendering, and there is a danger that if these—

Order. I must ask hon. Members to keep their supplementary questions short.

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay attention to the drafting of quantities in the future, because the prices being estimated for now are likely to be exceeded when the completed price is fixed?

I shall certainly pay attention to any suggestion which the hon. Member makes.

Does this mean that the scheme for importing timber houses from Scandinavia has been abolished, and secondly, will my right hon. Friend look into the previous complaints made amongst other things by the East Kilbride Development Corporation against bad construction by this firm?

We certainly do not want bad construction. It is the case that we are not importing timber houses but are manufacturing them at home.

While we welcome the Minister's statement that these houses are to be manufactured in Scotland, may I take it that the Government have not closed their minds to importing additional houses if that can be arranged in the proper exchange of trade? If this can be facilitated, is there any objection to importing additional timber houses, which have made a great contribution to overcoming the shortage in Scotland?

I should be very glad to consider any suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member has to make on the subject.

Is this the final word that there will be no importation of Scandinavian houses, because a great many contractors are keeping their orders open? Will my right hon. Friend say whether the firm in Coatbridge is the only one that is allowed to tender in future?

It is not the only firm which is allowed to tender. The point is that they produced the lowest tender, and one can get cheaper production by having the whole of this limited programme in the hands of one firm.

Building Contracts

39 and 40.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what steps he has taken to circularise local authorities as to the desirability of permitting the use of substitute material in house-building contracts whenever necessary, in order to avoid delay in construction provided this is not detrimental to the general standard required;

(2) whether he will circularise local authorities with a view to urging upon them the desirability of paying promptly for house-building work undertaken on their behalf.

I have sent to the hon. and gallant Member a copy of a circular which I issued to local authorities on 9th April about these matters.

Arising out of the second of these Questions, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the increased rate of overdraft interest makes the second Question very important to builders and that they should not be left too long without their money?

I agree, and I think my hon. and gallant Friend will find that advice has been tendered on this subject.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take care to circulate that part of his reply which deals with substitute house-building materials to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Works who, 15 minutes ago, was bragging to the House of a 13 per cent. increase in brick production and prophesied more bricks and therefore less use of substitute materials?

Since the right hon. Gentleman has shown, in answer to a previous Question, that he has discovered something which he and his party pretended not to know about before—the shortage of bricks—will he reconsider his decision about importing timber houses from Scandinavia, because there is a very great shortage of houses and a crying need for them?

I can assure the hon. Lady that we want to get all we can, but financial considerations make it impossible for me to suggest at the moment that there will be more timber houses.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman had these same considerations in mind when six months ago he and his colleagues were promising the importation of Scandinavian houses?

Invalid Motor Tricycles (Petrol Costs)


asked the Minister of Pensions if he has considered representations from the Invalid Tricycle Association asking that the disabled, for whom motor tricycles have been provided, should be given some assistance in meeting the increased cost of petrol; and if he will make a statement on the cost involved.

My hon. Friend has received no such representations. On the basis of an average annual mileage of about 4,500, the cost per annum of meeting in full the increase in the price of petrol would be about £16,000.

As the Minister has had no representation direct, will he take into account representations received by individual Members of Parliament? This is a considerable charge, and will he ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal as fairly with the tricycle men as he has dealt with those who have motor cars?

The additional cost per mile resulting from the increase in the petrol tax is very low for these tricycles—one-ninth of a penny and one-sixth of a penny. But the question of an allowance to meet the extra cost is one of the matters which my hon. Friend is discussing with the other Ministers concerned.

Is the Minister aware that there is on both sides of the House considerable support for the claims of these men, because the tricycles are practically their means of livelihood, and will he give very sympathetic consideration to them?

That is very well realised and, as I have already said, discussions are at present taking place.

British Army

Military College Of Science


asked the Secretary of State for War what progress he is making with regard to his proposals for the development of the Military College of Science as an alternative Army entry to Sandhurst.

I am sorry that I cannot at present add anything to what my right hon. Friend has already said about this project. It is important that it should be thoroughly examined, and this is being done with all possible speed. My hon. Friend can rest assured that an announcement will be made as soon as decisions have been reached.

Personal Case


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will review the case of 22418428 Driver Coxwell, at present engaged on his two years National Service, who has suffered two serious attacks of meningitis, and whose present condition gives cause for anxiety to his parents; and if, in view of the fact that this Service man is not fit for all duties, he will now sanction his release.

My right hon. Friend has reviewed this case. But, since he is advised that this soldier is fit for light duties in the United Kingdom, he cannot agree to his release.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that it really does seem incredible that the War Office should want to hang on to this young man? On the first occasion of his illness he had a most lucky escape. He was then left untreated, as it was considered he was drunk. He has since had a second serious attack of this disease; he is no use to the Army; his physical condition does not allow him to undertake full duties, and his own doctor says it is imperative he should come out. Why, therefore, cannot the War Office allow him to come out?

I quite understand the anxiety of the hon. Member, and of the parents of this man, owing to the grave reputation which this disease used to have. But modern conditions and treatment have greatly alleviated that. This soldier had very careful treatment both on the first and the second occasion—on the second occasion by one of the most eminent neurologists in the country. Then a medical board was held. I am in the great difficulty that if one has these eminent people called in to advise, it would be a mistake to override their opinion.

Would the hon. Gentleman say what purpose is served by retaining this man? Would he say what are his present duties and if they are of a non-military or non-regimental character? If they are, could not a civilian undertake them?

The driver is at the moment employed in driving on local journeys and is under observation by his unit doctor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Driving?"]—and it is not considered that there is any cause for anxiety. If it would help the hon. Gentleman, I will make an inquiry to see that the observation is really a thorough observation.

In view of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Shropshire Light Infantry, Korea (Leave)


asked the Secretary of State for War is he is aware that the men of the 1st Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry now in Korea were promised leave after 16 months; that they have served in Hong Kong for 21 months and for 11 months in Korea; and when they will be granted home leave.

I know of no such promise and to give one would be contrary to War Office policy. This battalion will, however, in the normal course of events move from the Far East to Northwest Europe this autumn and it is hoped that an opportunity for a period of home leave will then occur.

Is the Minister aware that these men have been out in Korea and the Far East for two years and nine months without any home leave; and will he take steps to see that these young men, who have been either in the Far East or the Near East for a reasonable period, get home leave?

We are anxious that these units should be staged on their way back in Britain so that they can get home leave and, as I have said, we are hoping that will be possible this autumn. But the exigencies of the Service must always make the first claim on movements of this kind, although we are anxious to do what the hon. Member wants.

Has the Minister seen some rather disturbing figures relating to difficulties which have arisen regarding the domestic affairs of many of these soldiers, and will he bear this factor in mind in getting something done about it?

Interests such as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has brought to my attention are among the things which make it desirable that some sort of leave should be given.

Would the hon. Gentleman consider how far it is appropriate in the case of National Service men, whose total liability is two years training service, that they should be called upon to spend a period in more than one danger area, as so many of these young men are being called on to do?

Will the Minister give the same undertaking in relation to every regiment of the British Army serving in Korea regarding their leave and return to this country?

Is the Minister aware that there are other regiments where men are in the position that their stay in Korea has been extended by six months, and that they have been out there practically three years?

I realise the period of service out there has been extended. We have done what we can to make local leave available, although this is something of a makeshift since I realise that it is home leave which they are really anxious to have. But I cannot go further than I have at present.

Collective Punishment (Civilian Populations)


asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give instructions that the imposition of collective penalties is not to be used by the British Army, as it was scheduled by the United Nations War Crimes Commission in 1943.

In the imposition of collective punishment the British Amy follows the customary laws and usages of war, and in particular the so-called Hague Rules. No collective penalty may be inflicted on the population in occupied territory on account of acts of individuals for which it cannot be regarded as collectively responsible, although in certain circumstances action against a locality or a community may be admissible specifically as reprisals. My right hon. Friend sees no reason at the present time to vary the existing policy.

While that sounds a very complicated legal formula for preventing something which has been universally condemned, would it not be easier for the War Office to draw the attention of the British Army to this decision as mentioned in the Question, and were not people tried and condemned at Nuremberg for doing that very thing?

I do not know what specific case the hon. Gentleman has in mind, but I am not aware of any collective penalties being imposed by the British Army at all.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that the Colonial Secretary has supported General Templer in imposing collective punishment? Is he aware that the punishing of the innocent for the guilty is anathema to millions in this country? Is he further aware that this punishment entailed keeping young children confined for 22 hours out of 24, and will he have a word with the Colonial Secretary to see that this practice is not continued?

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman himself could have a word with the Colonial Secretary by putting down a Question to him. This is not my responsibility.

Z Reservists (Exemptions And Deferments)


asked the Secretary of State for War the total number of exemptions and deferments, respectively, in the Z training scheme granted this year, at the latest available date.

Twenty-three thousand one hundred and twenty-four Z reservists have been granted exemption from this year's training and the training dates of 2,389 reservists have been changed.

Is my hon. Friend able to say what percentage of the total call-up these figures represent?

The total call-up is in the region of 243,000. My hon. and gallant Friend can work it out for himself: it comes to about 10 per cent.

Battle Areas (Mine Clearance)


asked the Secretary of State for War what facilities the Royal Engineers provide for sweeping by detectors former defensive zones in this country which, on being ploughed up as marginal land, have been found to contain live British anti-tank mines.

The Royal Engineers do not provide facilities, but there are still a few battle area clearance teams which are being made available for this work, including the particular task in which my hon. Friend is interested.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there was some delay in this case, even in acknowledging the request for the Services to detect the mines, and, if the services cannot be provided promptly, will he give an undertaking that a suitable acknowledgment is made by the commander concerned?

Yes, I will certainly do that. It might help my hon. Friend to know that the officer in charge of the team is due to arrive in the Command on Friday.

Cotton Import Committee (Report)

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

54. Mr. F. J. ERROLL,—To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will now make an announcement about the Government's intentions with regard to the recommendations contained in the Hopkins Committee Report.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to answer Question No. 54.

The Report of the Cotton Import Committee, which my noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I set up, has been laid before Parliament, and is now available in the Vote Office.

The Committee, whose terms of reference were to consider how, in the current foreign exchange position, cotton could best be supplied to the United Kingdom cotton industry, included representatives of the cotton industry, the cotton merchants, the trade unions, the Cotton Board, and the Raw Cotton Commission, under the Chairmanship of the right hon. Sir Richard Hopkins. I am glad to say its Report is unanimous. I am sure that the House would wish me to express our gratitude to the Chairman and members for the work they have done.

The main feature of the Report is the recommendation that each year spinners will be given an option to buy their cotton on their own account, using merchants as they wish. The Raw Cotton Commission will continue to supply those who choose to buy from it. The Report recommends that the spinner shall make his choice annually of how he wishes to buy all his cotton in each of the main types. So long as the import of particular growths, for example U.S. cotton, has to be restricted for currency reasons, each spinner who chooses to buy these growths on his own account will be entitled to import a share calculated on the same basis as will apply to the Raw Cotton Commission. Entitlements shall be transferable, so that spinners can thereby obtain the cotton best adapted to their particular requirements.

It is recommended that the Raw Cotton Commission shall provide appropriate futures cover arrangements for those spinners who do their own buying and for the merchants who serve them. The Report also recommends the setting up of a Panel to advise on the administration of the scheme.

Her Majesty's Government accept the recommendations in the Report. Arrangements are being made to put them into effect as soon as possible, so that they may operate during the forthcoming buying season.

Is the President aware that these steps to freedom will be greeted with great satisfaction by all concerned, and can he say if any legislation will be necessary to give effect to these proposals?

No legislation will be required to give effect to these proposals, as action can be taken by administrative steps under the existing law.

I should like to join with the right hon. Gentleman in congratulating the Committee on the speed with which it discharged its task, for this is a most technical and complicated problem, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to reserve their judgment on the merits of the proposals until they have had a further opportunity to consider them.

In the meantime, perhaps I may put three questions to the right hon. Gentleman for clarification of the issues which are involved. The first concerns the extent to which the scheme involves the reopening of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, and whether the Exchange will be able to deal in futures; secondly, whether any additional dollar expenditure will be involved; and, finally, whether the trade unions will be represented on the panel which is to be set up to advise on the administration of the scheme?

On the question of futures, the arrangements suggested, which are, as the hon. Gentleman says, somewhat complex, are set out fully in the Report, and provide that the Raw Cotton Commission should provide the futures cover. With regard to dollar expenditure, no additional dollar expenditure will be involved under the proposals in the Report, but those spinners or merchants who opt to buy American types on their own will, of course, get a dollar allocation for the purpose. With regard to the third point, I have not yet discussed in full with my noble Friend the constitution of the advisory panel, but I should certainly think that the trade unions, which have made a most valuable contribution in these discussions, will be represented.

On a point of order. May I ask whether a copy of this reply has been supplied to the Opposition Front Bench and not afforded to the hon. Gentleman who asked this Question, because it would appear to me that the three questions asked by the hon. Gentleman opposite could not have been prepared in advance unless a copy of the answer had been supplied to him in advance. [Interruption.] I am raising an issue on behalf of the whole of private Members of this House. I do not think the hon. Gentleman opposite could have asked those questions unless he had had the answer supplied to him in advance.

In reply to my hon. Friend, I extended what I think is the normal courtesy; that is, I supplied a copy of the answer both to my hon. Friend who asked the Question and the hon. Gentleman opposite.

Further to that point of order. After many years in this House, I have never yet been given an advanced copy of an answer to a Question. [Interruption.] I do wish hon. Members opposite would restrain themselves. I say that I have never been given the answer to a Question before it was asked, and, therefore, I want to know why the hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Erroll) and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) were given the answer before this Question was asked, and without knowing that it would not be reached in the ordinary way?

Is it not obvious to the whole House that this is not the Question of the hon. Member for Altrincham (Mr. Erroll) but that of the President of the Board of Trade, and that all that the hon. Member for Altrincham did was to sign it?

May I correct the erroneous impression given by the hon. Member? I have been repeatedly putting down Questions of my own composition to the Minister.

Sir Stafford Cripps (Tributes)

Since we met here yesterday, we have learned of the death of a statesman of national pre-eminence who has long served with distinction in the House of Commons, and it is in accordance with recent precedents that I should attempt to pay some tribute, necessarily brief and inadequate, to his memory.

Stafford Cripps was a man of force and fire. His intellectual and moral passions were so strong that they not only inspired but not seldom dominated his actions. They were strengthened and also governed by the workings of a powerful, lucid intelligence, and by a deep and lively Christian faith. He strode through life with a remarkable indifference to material satisfactions or worldly advantages. I suppose there are few hon. Members in any part of the House who have not differed violently from him at this time or that, and yet there is none who did not regard him with respect and with admiration, not only for his abilities, but for his character.

His friends—and they were many—among whom I am proud to take my place, were conscious, in addition to his public gifts, of the charm of his personality and of the wit and gaiety with which he enlivened not only the mellow hours but also the hard discharge of laborious business in anxious or perilous times. In all his complicated political career he was the soul of honour, and his courage was proof against every test which the terrible years through which we have passed could bring.

Having sat with him in the war-time Cabinet, which he joined in 1942 and of which he was always a member, or, as we called it in those days, a "constant attender," I can testify to the immense value of his contributions to our discussions. There was no topic I can remember—and no doubt right hon. Gentlemen opposite have longer experiences of their own—on which he did not throw a clarifying light and to which he did not often bring a convenient and apt solution.

Most of us have in our memories the distinction with which he filled the great office of the Exchequer and how easily he explained and interpreted the problems of finance. We could not always all agree with his policy, but everyone was grateful for its exposition. Though a master of words and dialectic both in the law and in Parliament, he had also a most practical and organising side to his nature. During the First World War he managed a small arms factory and its excellence and efficiency was brought to my notice when I was Minister of Munitions.

It was this that prompted me to offer him the most complex business of the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the Second World War after he ceased to lead this House, and I have very little doubt that his conduct of it was not only most helpful to our interests but highly congenial to his nature. His was a mind that fastened itself as easily upon small as upon great things and to whom detail was no burden but often almost a relief.

One of the most recent precedents for the intervention I am making today was when the House paid its tribute to Oliver Stanley who, like Stafford Cripps, was in our own time a Member for Bristol. Both had qualities which will long be cherished in that famous city where they were so well-known.

It is not for me, in these few words, to attempt to epitomise the place which Stafford Cripps will bear in the history of our life and times, or of his contribution to their politcal philosophy; but that, as a man, he had few his equals in ability or virtue will be generally affirmed by his contemporaries; and that he brought an unfailing flow of courage, honour and faith to bear upon our toils and torments will be attested by all who knew him and most of all by those who knew him best.

Our hearts go out to the noble woman, his devoted wife, who, through these long months of agony, mocked by false dawns, has been his greatest comfort on earth. To her we express profound sympathy this afternoon, and we trust that she may find some solace in the fact that Stafford's memory shines so brightly among us all.

I desire, on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House and myself, to try to add something to the very fine and generous tribute which the Prime Minister has paid to the late Sir Stafford Cripps, whose untimely loss we mourn today. He was a man the greatness of whose intellectual and practical abilities was matched by his nobility of character and high idealism.

He came from a remarkable family with a high tradition of public and social service. When he entered this House he had already become a leading figure at the Bar. He united high scientific attainments with a mastery of detail and a power of clear exposition and incisive argument. Many great barristers have failed in this House. Stafford Cripps succeeded at once.

I recall how he had immediately to take part in piloting a difficult Budget and how well he succeeded. In the years that followed he was one of the mainstays of the very small Labour Opposition of those years. Later his enthusiasm, his eagerness and his impatience led him into paths which the majority of us could not follow, but there was never any breach of friendship, and there was never any doubt of his sincerity.

Experience, I think, led him to maturer views without in any way impairing his fervent Socialist faith. The Prime Minister has spoken of his work in the war-time Government, when he led this House and when later he ran a great Department. It was a great pleasure to me when he rejoined our party and took office as President of the Board of Trade. Later he became Chancellor of the Exchequer and most hon. and right hon. Members will remember his lucid speeches when he introduced his Budgets and when he dealt with economic issues. He took a major share in dealing with the very difficult economic and financial problems of the post-war period and in planning the economy of the country.

His high sense of duty drove him to tax his physical resources to the utmost. He worked intolerably long hours, yet retained his serenity. He took his full share in every kind of work of Government and he faced his problems with the same courage with which he met criticism. He was never afraid of the unpopular course if he held it to be right. I believe he did immense service to this country.

But foreign affairs and economics are so closely linked in these days that he worked also in the international field. Here he and his fellow Westcountryman, Ernest Bevin, two Gloucester men coming from such very different social environments, worked closely and harmoniously together. He was largely responsible for setting up the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. Despite the strong views which he held so tenaciously he was an admirable colleague, always ready to help others. In particular, he took infinite pains to encourage and bring forward younger colleagues.

He and Lady Cripps were both deeply interested in China and India. His mission to India during the war and his leadership of the Cabinet mission later paved the way for the ultimate settlement of the problem of Indian self-Government. Here his close friendship with leading Indians was a great help.

I think that everyone who was brought in contact with Stafford Cripps realised that he was a man of high principle. He was deeply religious, a devout member of the Church of England, and brought to his work the inspiration of high purpose. He was a keen Socialist; his Christianity and Socialism were the guiding forces of his life. I think few men have been so little regardful of self. And he was no cold intellectual. On the contrary, he was a very warm-hearted, generous and lovable man with great personal charm. His interests were wide and his capabilities in many fields were manifold. He suffered constantly from ill-health and during the last two years of his life when this became serious he met it with unflinching courage, and it was only the positive orders of his doctors that forced him to retire from active life.

I had the privilege of his friendship and worked closely with him for many years. I was bound to him by affection, and I had very many acts of kindness from him. When I saw him for the last time, prior to his leaving for Switzerland, he was still full of hope that a complete cure could be effected, with a further opportunity of service. His strong will and his faith had carried him so far. But it was not to be.

The country has lost a great men, and I mourn a dear friend. I know that I am expressing the feelings of us all in sending our deepest sympathy to his family, especially to Lady Cripps who shared so much of his work and cared for him so devotedly in his long illness.

I had the high privilege and the true honour of knowing Stafford Cripps before either of us entered this House. We were both members of that unique and generous brotherhood, the Bar of England. There we knew, admired and respected him as a brilliant, persuasive and honourable advocate, as a profound lawyer and as a wise counsellor. We recognised that, had he chosen to remain in his profession, every office on the Bench was open to him. He would have added lustre to the just fame of the Judiciary. He chose otherwise.

He became a great Parliamentarian, an outstanding statesman, an ambassador—an Ambassador to Russia, an Ambassador to India, an ambassador on behalf of peace and better understanding among his fellow men, and, finally, he became a noted and courageous Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was endowed with many talents. He gave of those gifts freely and lavishly to the service of his country and, indeed, to the service of humanity.

We mourn today the passing of a fine Christian knight, a dauntless spirit, a devoted public servant, a noble character whose life, whose integrity, and whose work are an example and an inspiration to us all, whose shining faith never faltered in the face of difficulties, however mountainous. To his devoted wife and to his children, in deep sorrow, we tender our sincere sympathy.

Bill Presented

Family Allowances And National Insurance Bill

"to provide for increasing rates of allowances under the Family Allowances Act, 1945, and rates or amounts of contributions and benefits under the National Insurance Acts, 1946 to 1951; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid," presented by Mr. Peake; supported by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Mr. James Stuart, Mr. Crookshank, Sir Walter Monckton and Mr. Turton; read the First time; to be read a Second time Tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 86.]

Business Of The House

Proceedings of the Committee on Housing [Money] exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ The Prime Minister.]

Orders Of The Day

Housing Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

3.54 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill follows the general review of the finance of housing which the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the debate on the Address in November last. The need for this review at this time arose primarily from two increases in the rate of interest on loans to local authorities which have brought the rate from 3 per cent. to 4¼ per cent. At that rate of 4¼ per cent., the local authorities are borrowing long-term money at a rate of interest which can be justified as being broadly in line with normal long-term rates. Nor is this in any way invalidated by the recent rise in the short-term Bank rate to 4 per cent., for there is no reason to suppose that the present rates of the Public Works Loan Board cannot properly be maintained.

It would be quite inappropriate for me, in introducing this Bill, to launch into a general discussion of monetary policy even if I were equipped to do so, for this is a subject, as Members well know, where controversy may reach a remarkable degree of obscurity and even of bitterness, for these high economic disputes are often carried on today with all the acerbity and pedantry of medieval theologians. Therefore, whatever may be said of the arguments for or against the policy of monetary stringency to meet an inflationary situation, it is clear that this policy is pursued for strong and compelling reasons.

It is not merely a piece of sadism or masochism by which we are torturing ourselves to no purpose, for if it succeeds it will be justified in every sphere of our national life. Nowhere can it be of more value than in the sphere of housing, for it will result, let us hope, in a reduction, or at least in a halt, in the increasing costs of house-building which have been such a malignant feature of recent housing history. When I am told, therefore—which, incidentally, is not true—that the increased rate of interest will put so many shillings on the rent of the tenant, I would remind the House that if this monetary policy succeeds it will do just the opposite, for it will prevent that general increase in rent which higher costs must in some form or another eventually involve. It may even lead to a reduction of costs and to a corresponding reduction of rents.

However, apart from this reason, it is obvious that an expanding housing programme can only be based upon a healthy national economy. If we cannot solve the urgent economic problems of the day, if we cannot deal with the question of the balance of payments, then good-bye to the whole housing drive—for even if the local loans on housing were reduced to 1 per cent. or less there would be no foreign exchange with which to buy timber, pulp and all the rest of it which go to make up the essentials of housing. Therefore, if this monetary policy can succeed in helping to avert national bankruptcy it will save not only the whole life of the country but also those social services of which housing today is perhaps the most important.

While this policy is developing, and until it can prove fruitful, we cannot, I submit, disregard the situation created particularly as a result of a rise of interest rates. This rise of interest rates, as it affects the Public Works Loan Board, leads to one of the by-paths of the great economic forest which I described before, and into which I may perhaps be allowed to stray for a few moments. I know that it has been argued by some very talented Members of the House, including ex-Ministers, that so long as the Budget is balanced, both above and below the line, the local authorities ought not to pay any interest at all on their loans supplied by the central government.

I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who I do not see in his place today, who was the leading exponent of this view. It is quite true that when he was in the Treasury as a Minister he was never able to sell this idea to the Treasury. I read an account by one of the Parliamentary commentators of a great speech he made on the Budget, in which I read that he was to be known in the future as "the slogger." He never succeeded in slogging the Chancellor of the Exchequer of his own Government on this matter.

The argument, though possibly tenable in theory, is, therefore, somewhat irrevelant. In any case, like so many very clever arguments, it proves too much, because if it were true then it makes no difference whether the current rate of interest is 10 per cent., 5 per cent., 4 per cent., or any per cent. one likes to take. All this can be disregarded according to that theory and all the loans made by the central Government to the local authorities would be free of interest; but since no Government, not even that adorned by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, has taken this line, I can see no reason why the local authorities should borrow at less than the appropriate long-term rate of interest.

If they are to pay interest at all surely they ought to pay the appropriate rate of interest. There is a great deal to be said for and against family life, but if one is to have children, it is perhaps well that they should be legitimate.

As the right hon. Gentleman has made some caustic remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), would he be kind enough to let us know whether he intimated to my right hon. Friend that he was going to give us this knockabout turn?

Yes. I intimated that to him just before this debate began, and he told me he would be present; but for some reason he is not.

I am very interested in the argument that it is inappropriate to give a subsidy by way of cost-free loan. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman says that in appropriate cases interest ought to be charged. Could he tell us what is the distinction in policy which he draws? When the Bank rate went up originally the Public Works Loan Board rate was raised, but when it went up a second time it was decided that it was unnecessary to raise the Public Works Loan Board rate.

That is just the point I dealt with in the first part of my remarks. I said I thought it should be attuned to the long-term rate of gilt edged, and I saw no reason to suppose—and I think the market today supports me in this view—that this rate of 4¼ per cent. is inappropriate to the long-term rate on the gilt edged market at the present time.

We have to consider how the immediate burden of the housing costs should be distributed. In this matter of housing finance, there are three parties—the taxpayer, the ratepayer, and the tenants of the council houses; but if no other counterbalancing action were taken the burden of the increased costs would fall on the general body of ratepayers, although each council could, at their discretion, shift the burden by increasing the rents either of the tenants of new council houses or by spreading the necessary increase over the tenants of all council houses.

I have heard it argued that those who live in subsidised council houses, especially new ones, have an unfair advantage over their neighbours. I have been much criticised in this matter. I have observed that this criticism is often made by armchair critics who are generally quite satisfactorily housed themselves; but in any case, so far as the many millions of our people who live in rent restricted houses are concerned, they surely have no right to point the finger of scorn at the tenants of council-subsidised houses. Until it is possible—as perhaps it may be when the supply of housing accommodation begins to become more nearly balanced with demand—to untangle the immense mess caused by the various rent restriction laws, these millions of people are, in a sense, subsidised at the expense of their private landlords. Therefore it is not for them to raise any objection against the subsidising of new council tenants by this machinery.

Taking the broad view one has to consider everybody as a whole and I submit that this subsidy is broadly fair. To do the opposite—to impose the whole burden of the results of the increased cost of housing upon the tenants of the new council houses—would be out of proportion to what these new tenants ought to be asked to bear and out of relation to what the broad body of tenants are paying over the whole field. It is to avoid this result that this Bill has been introduced by the Government. Over six years have passed since a housing subsidy Bill was introduced into this House, so I may perhaps be allowed to go into rather more detail than if this kind of Bill had been more frequent.

I think it is important to recall to hon. Members the precise detail. From time to time periodic reviews have taken place between the Government and local authorities as to the need for revision, upward or downward, and these reviews have subsequently been laid before the House of Commons; but, in fact, there have been no changes in the standard rate. It is true that in 1949 some additional subsidies were introduced for certain special purposes, but the main structure of the plan and the amount of the standard housing subsidy has remained unchanged.

There have of course, been great variations at the times when these reviews were made, both as to conditions and as to costs. This will become apparent when I explain to the House the principle upon which the subsidy was based then and is being maintained now.

The purpose of the subsidy is a simple one. It is that houses should be provided for these new tenants at rents they can afford to pay and which may be regarded as reasonable in the prevailing conditions. To achieve this the deficit, after fixing what is a fair rent, has to be provided partly by Exchequer grant and partly out of the local rates, and it has always been, since the beginning of this system, in the proportion of three-quarters from the Exchequer and one-quarter from the local rates.

This principle has been accepted as equitable ever since the war and I do not propose to alter it. Nor do I think that anyone who values the position of local government and its place in our national life would wish to see this proportion changed; for to do so would be to take away the sense of responsibility, and the actual responsibility and, therefore, the independence of the local authorities.

A 100 per cent. Exchequer grant, as the House will readily see, would ultimately mean that my Department would have to undertake directly the tasks which are now entrusted to the 1,500 housing authorities up and down the country. At no point in my discussions with the representatives of the local authorities or with any other responsible person, so far as I know, in or out of the House, has it ever been suggested to me that there should be any variation in the division of the burden.

We come now to the question of how this deficit should be calculated. I venture to recall to Members the accepted procedure. The standard housing subsidy has always been based on the cost of what is called the "standard house" and this is taken as a plain three-bedroom house. My predecessors in office, whether Conservative or Socialist, regarded this as the most practicable arrangement in order to get a fair result—just taking that standard house instead of trying to get a minute allocation between all the different kinds of what I think are called "accommodation units." The local authorities have always accepted this and there has never been any quarrel about it.

To fix what should be the amount of the subsidy, agreement has to be reached on certain premises. These are broadly three in number. First, there is the average capital cost of the notional house: second, the average cost of maintenance, and, third, what has to be taken as a notional rent.

The rent has always meant, of course, the net rent, irrespective of rates, I venture to emphasise the word "notional," because for the purpose of the calculation of the subsidies we operate upon this notional basis. It is not a rent which is actually paid, necessarily, by any particular person in any particular house. Indeed, there may not be an individual who pays a notional rent, just as there may not be, in the calculation of the average height and weight of the population, any average man. But these fixed points have to be taken and must first be considered in order to lead to a fair conclusion of what the subsidy ought to be.

In the year 1946 the capital cost was taken as £1,100, maintenance was taken as £7 8s. and the rent as 10s. There come the years that follow. Of course, in the first happy days, those happy days of 1945 onwards, when the first light of civilisation broke upon mankind, it was confidently expected that full employment, low interest rates and a steadily inflationary situation would soon result in a general fall of prices. It was therefore assumed, and indeed said, that at every stage forward in this pilgrimage to Utopia a reduction of the subsidy would be possible.

But, alas, the harsh facts of life have reasserted themselves and, in point of fact, every one of the three items in this notional equation have had continually to be moved upwards. At each successive review it had to be agreed with the local authorities that the capital costs had risen. In 1949 it was to £1,350 or more, and in 1951 to £1,500. At the review which has just been held, it was agreed, on the old calculation, that the cost of the notional house should be taken as £1,575. In the same way, the allowance for maintenance has risen from £7 8s. to what has been now agreed for the purpose of this calculation—£12.

It will be abundantly clear to hon. Members from these figures that the only method by which an avoidance of an increased subsidy could have been justified at those intervening reviews, since the passing of the original Act, would have been that the third item, the notional rent, should also be considered as having risen. For it must hardly be conceivable that my predecessors would have wished that the whole additional cost, if that were not done, should fall upon the rates.

It is quite clear what was their view because, speaking in the House, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) seemed to accept a figure in 1949 of between 13s. and 14s. as the notional rent for the purpose of calculation. In 1950 the then Parliamentary Secretary accepted 14s. 3d., which, he said, was 10 per cent. of the average wages. By November, 1950, the same right hon. Gentleman allowed from 14s. to 15s., and in the review of May, 1951—that is, 11 months ago—the only basis upon which a refusal to raise the subsidy could possibly have been justified would have been to accept a notional rent for this purpose of 16s. These periodic rises in the notional rent were justified by my predecessor, and I believe rightly so, as having regard to the general rise in wages and the general rise in the price level. On the same principles, for the purpose of this calculation, we have taken 18s. as the notional rent.

I thought it well to explain this procedure and this system once more to the House, because it is a long time since we first started it, and I think many hon. Members may have forgotten it, or, indeed, may not even have been aware of these principles. It was clear to me, on first taking office, that a new review would be necessary in the summer of this year in any case, but, of course, owing to the rise in the interest rates, it became necessary to bring forward that review and to make it as soon as possible.

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves this part of the discussion may I ask him a question? Whenever I have spoken on this matter in the House I have always been able to give the House the relationship between housing costs and general costs. Is the right hon. Gentleman able to tell us today what is that relationship?